So, do guns make you safer in the workplace, or not?
The city can't decide.
First, it barred its employees from carrying concealed weapons to work. Then, with Mayor Steve Bach's endorsement earlier this year, City Council reversed the policy.
Now, Bach wants Council to appropriate $270,000 to beef up security at two downtown city buildings — City Hall and the City Administration Building (CAB) — seemingly because concealed weapons are allowed there, though one official says there's no connection. Council is expected to take up the measure next week.
One person's safety ...
Before this year, the city relied on home-rule powers to prohibit employees from carrying concealed firearms on city property. But it's never been able to keep the general public from doing so, except in areas where weapons are prohibited by federal law; on public school property; and in public buildings with security personnel and metal detectors, such as municipal courts; due to state law requirements.
About a month after Adam Lanza gunned down 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, human resources director Mike Sullivan sent a Jan. 11 memo to all employees.
"In light of recent national events involving workplace violence," Sullivan wrote, "the Mayor and City senior leadership are taking a series of preventive measures to make the City of Colorado Springs a safer place for our employees and visitors." One step was to remind workers that city policy "prohibits employees from possessing or using weapons at the workplace or during work hours."
But some employees raised questions, such as why they weren't allowed to concealed carry when the public, Councilors and Mayor Steve Bach are allowed to, according to a summary of employee comments provided by Sullivan. They said concealed carry would make them feel safer, because it gave them the opportunity to defend themselves and not rely on someone else.
(Among other questions, someone asked if a supervisor has the right to know which of his or her employees is carrying. "The answer is no," Sullivan says via e-mail, "due to privacy requirements around concealed carry.")
On Feb. 26, on the recommendation of Sullivan, Council voted 7-2 to lift the ban on concealed carry for workers, with then-President Scott Hente and then-President Pro Tem Jan Martin dissenting.
"Speaking as someone who works in the City Hall building almost on a daily basis," Martin said, "the fact we're arming employees doesn't make me feel any safer." Hente added, "I'm just not convinced that more guns in the workplace is the answer."
... is another's worry
When Sullivan reappeared before Council on May 14, seeking a new round of security measures, Martin proposed to delay action on that expenditure and two others. That prompted Bach's chief of staff, Laura Neumann, to ask if those "passionate" about the items could speak.
Addressing the security issue, she said, "When we made the decision to allow concealed carry to come into the CAB, there was a commitment to our employees that we were going to seek and ensure greater safety on their behalf. We made a commitment to them."
Any extended delay, she said, would be "losing some faith in [employees'] eyes."
At that meeting, Neumann recommended spending $225,000 at the CAB, where Bach's office is located. Of that, $100,000 is for card readers, which would allow access to office suites by card only; $55,000 for cameras; and $100,000 for a police officer during business hours.
At City Hall, home of Council offices, staff recommends spending $45,000, including $35,000 for card readers and $10,000 to "enhance physical security in chambers (most likely the dais structure itself)," as Sullivan puts it.
Oddly, asked today about the security measures, Neumann tells the Indy via e-mail that they are "not related to [the city's] decision to allow concealed carry of firearms by employees, but rather as a precaution in response to events across the country."
El Paso County has allowed the public and employees to concealed carry since the mid-1990s. Sheriff Terry Maketa says neither he nor the county's director of security recalls any incident involving someone with a concealed carry permit in a county building.
"These are employees who have gone through a fingerprint-based background check, and probably a higher background check than the elected officials," he says, noting that all 28,000 concealed carry permit holders in the county have submitted to these checks.
There is one exception ...
The city will invoke its authority to bar one specific group of employees from arming themselves for work: firefighters.
"We decided it would be a safety issue if we allowed them to bring to work," Interim Fire Chief Tommy Smith says, "because going into a fire situation would pose a danger to themselves. And if they took the weapon off before going into a fire, how would we secure that weapon? We get a lot of kids in stations, so we decided not to allow firefighters to do that."
Smith adds, however, that firefighters will be allowed to stow firearms in their vehicles at work. — PZ